Today I ran a very hilly 8.4 mile race on a dirt road. The starting hill is the monster that made me cry when I did a test run of it about a month ago. The rest of the course is rolling hills, and overall it nets an increase in elevation. The race was point-to-point, meaning it wasn’t a loop or an out & back course, which is why we never got to go down hill nearly as much as up.
In general, I do well on hills. However, I apparently suck at 1.5 mile long ones when I’ve (ahem) probably done too much cross training quad presses two days earlier. I thought I was going to have to drop out of the race by mile 1.5. My ankles, both of them, were screaming at me. I had to stop several times and at one point, yes, the goddamn hill made me cry again. Granted, it wasn’t a real snuffle-fest, but it was bad enough another runner and the pacer golf cart asked me if I was ok. I had to stop and walk half a dozen times and fully stop twice to shake my ankles out.
I wanted to see how I felt once I reached the top of the hill, so I waved them off. All I could think was: “Shit, if I have to drop out of this race, I’ll have to run it next year to prove it can’t beat me.” Luckily, before I crested I started to feel better. It was probably endorphins clearing out the pain. Regardless, I was not only able to run like a normal person, but I started passing a ton of people who had passed me limping by earlier.
My goal for the race was to try to finish in 1:20. I can run 8 miles much faster than that, but I added in time due to the hilly course and that I trained through the race, meaning I ran 5.75 miles yesterday and didn’t taper my workouts leading up to the race. When my first two miles put me at over 23 minutes, I was pretty sure making my time was a long shot.
Still, I ran steady and safely, making sure the uneven terrain did not wreak havoc on my weak ankles. I was glad I didn’t quit the race because I was feeling fine, if a little more fatigued than usual. I tried not to worry about speed but rather soldiering on. I tried not to look at my Garmin too often, but I noticed I’d picked up speed.
The race literally has a train running alongside, and runners beating the train back to the station get a special medal. They tooted the horn to start the race, then again at the halfway mark. I could tell it was ahead of me, but wasn’t sure the distance. It seemed way too far for me to catch up.
I continued to pass people. A lot of people. Especially on the hills.
I skipped all but two water stations. I wish I’d skipped the one at mile 6. They had styrofoam cups, so I couldn’t pinch it to drink. I debated tossing the whole cup, but decided I could stop a second to drink a bit. That break cost me a consistent negative split. 😦
But I was still pacing much better than I expected given the crummy start, and (except for mile 6), I was faster with each subsequent mile. I passed a few more people. Then I spent about a mile with no one too close to me. The weather was perfect, and I knew that loads of people without wonky ankles would be having a good race. My race was enjoyable at this point, even when I heard the train signal its arrival at the station when I was at 6.75 or so miles, at around 1:07. I didn’t let this discourage me.
The race organizers said the course ended in a nice half mile gentle downhill. True enough. What they didn’t mention was a pretty long (but not terribly steep) hill to get to it. And before that had been more rolling hills. The good thing about these hills is that I passed more people on them. I regained my confidence in hills overall, despite that the first one almost did me in.
I did my last mile at 8:40. I passed another couple people. With 4/10 of a mile to go, this one chick kicked it up to not let me pass. It’s ok. I still did that last split in 6:54.
I finished in 1:20:40. I made my time despite a horrible start and an incredibly tough course that followed my near-quitting. I know how much mental toughness I’ve got. My half marathon in a month in a half will be a walk in the park.